Fernando Alonso believes Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Ferrari doesn’t offer an upgrade on current colleague Felipe Massa.
As reported by Jonathan Noble of Autosport, the Spanish driver suggests Ferrari’s car holds the power heading into the 2014 Formula 1 season, not the team’s returning Finn:
For next year, with Kimi, we can do a very good championship for Ferrari, and try to again score as many points as possible.
But I think in terms of speed, Felipe is not any slower.
While Alonso’s comments appear without intent, his claim fails to acknowledge the form of two drivers who have produced differing results this year and risks angering his incoming teammate.
Raikkonen currently sits 18 points behind Alonso in the Drivers’ Championship and continues to improve the expectations of his Lotus-Renault car with podium finishes.
The 33-year-old scored his only victory of the season during the opening race in Australia and has finished second six times leading up to the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 13.
Massa has managed just one third-place success this season and continues to suffer with stuttering results. He finished ninth at the Korean Grand Prix, highlighting a driver who has lost a certain spark since his horrific accident in 2009.
Having tasted championship success in 2007, Raikkonen could yet return to Ferrari having overcome Alonso in this year’s stakes. He battled his way to second in Korea and has helped teammate Romain Grosjean produce impressive results throughout the season.
Grosjean’s mistake at the Korea International Circuit allowed Raikkonen to overtake and outrun his Swiss competitor, something he initially rued. The 27-year-old has since taken responsibility for his poor decision and welcomed further competition with Raikkonen, per ESPN:
The team's philosophy is always to let us race unless we're on very different strategies where one driver could hold up the other, and this is the right approach. Let's hope we have some more battles for podium places and I'll be pushing to be the one ahead.
Such a response highlights how Raikkonen’s consistent performances have helped his team improve their overall standard and willingness to improve.
Ferrari bosses will hope he can inspire the same attitude when he dons the famous red next season, as an interesting personal battle between Raikkonen and Alonso is sure to take place.
With Vettel taking up permanent residency atop the podium, this subplot will surely emerge as next season's most exciting reason to watch Formula 1.